The Home Office

The Home Office

Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.

Thanks to modern technology, we take conference calls in the car, check email after putting the kids to bed, and send invoices from the sofa. The lines may be blurred, but there is a way to make working from home work for you.

Having a separate home office increases productivity and helps you create boundaries. Here’s how to set yours up for success.


What’s the current state of the home office?

Back in the day, every home had one, then in the last 20 or so years, everyone wanted to work from a laptop on an island in the great room. But people realized they couldn’t get anything done that way, with your family going in and out all the time, so now everyone is back to wanting a separate space. The trend is for it to not feel “officey.”


Where in the house should your office go?

It depends on how the space is configured. Some people convert an extra bedroom, but if we’re starting with new construction or gutting it, we don’t put it on the bedroom level. You don’t always want to be reminded of work—I think that’s partially why people have moved away from working in their great room. It’s better to be in the kitchen with a glass of wine instead of feeling like you’re always on the clock.


How do you make an office feel less “officey”?

We’ll do a wall of glass doors or a pocket door so you don’t feel totally closed off but still have the ability to close the door and take a call, which you really can’t do in a great room. We’ve also been moving away from the traditional paneled library with bookcases and filing cabinets. You want it to look like a normal room with comfortable furniture.


Do people still have desks?

Yes, but they’re more decorative versus utilitarian. Instead of big, heavy partner’s desks, we’ve been doing a lot of L-shaped desks to accommodate multiple computer screens. Men are particularly into them—I’ve never had a woman ask for one. Strangely, no one wants a standing desk.


What about seating?

You want to incorporate a sitting-room feeling, so that it’s comfortable for someone to come in and chat. Usually we’ll have a pair of chairs or a sofa plus a desk chair, and that’s it. In terms of the desk chair, it’s a personal preference—some people want an ergonomic chair, and some people just want a regular chair. If it’s the latter, we use the same furniture vendors that we’d use for any other room. We do use a lot of leather for seating because people tend to eat while they’re working and it’s easier to clean.


What if you do have books and files?

I’ve found you either have rooms full of books or you have none—there’s no middle ground. Younger people tend to have Kindles, so they don’t have so many physical books. Either way, we will do some shelves, just not wall-to-wall. And in terms of storage, we’ll utilize a closet where people can hide their binders and files. The space does need to be functional.


What else do you take into account?

Nice artwork is key—something that’s inspiring to look at. Vintage rugs with a low pile are easier to move desk chairs on. It’s important to have natural light, because that increases productivity. We usually put in sconces or picture lights in offices; people don’t usually want floor or table lamps. The less clutter the better.  Since the office is usually on the main floor, your guests will see it when they walk by. It needs to feel like it’s part of your home—think of it as a normal room where you just happen to do work.


A dedicated workspace doesn’t have to feel like a traditional office.

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